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Leonard Kress


O Anandziu, "The Bird Flew Away"



The poet reads aloud, a South Indian language

I've never heard of. But here in Warsaw

it's translated into Polish-declaimed



by a washed-up TV actor whose last role

was Solidarity Informer. Who can blame

him, dumping vodka into his glass of tea?



He must follow a dread host of speeches,

followed by a string quartet from

State Higher School of Music # 5,



cellist in black with her chain-link belt,

over-dyed black hair she shakes from her eyes.

They play something irrepressibly Polish,



waltz, mazurka, polonaise competing

for the prize. She could be my daughter wringing

Bourees from Bach's Unaccompanied Suite



in the next room as I stick cinnamon into the curry.

Now it's Buddha's beloved disciple Ananda

who has the parquet floor, tempted by a young



village girl drawing water from the well. (Don't

get me started about sources...) In the time it takes

to empty the small bucket into the larger one,



she's already in love with him-barefoot, saffron-robed,

head shaved, "O Ananda,"she cries, "Renounce your vows.

What good is perfect bliss compared to my love?"



He leaves--not bothering to glance back, as she struggles

to hoist and balance the yoke of laden buckets-

chanting from his sutra, The bird flew away...

 

CAFE HAVELKA, VIENNA


After Baudelaire



What do you think you're doing? Who do you think

you are? You are not sitting in this cafe

dazed and euphoric on cigarettes and wine

about to share some slivovice, squandering

your guaranteed student loan on a tour

of mitteleuropa. And she is not some eager

wide-eyed girl from Krakow, studying

English Philology, here because



her father's a party functionary, able

to afford travel abroad. And she is not

about to invite you back to her upper bunk

in the student hotel she shares with her band

of English-mangling friends eager to talk rock.

Oh, you I would have loved, oh you who knew it too



Credit:



"Cafe Havelka, Vienna" originally appeared in The Orpheus Complex.


BIO


Leonard Kress has published four books, most recently The Orpheus Complex (Main Street Rag). He has also translated Pan Tadeusz of Adam Mickiewicz. He teaches philosophy, religion, and creative writing at Owens College in Ohio.



Mary Krane Derr


CHRZAN


The screen door puffs to a halt behind me,

and my dirt-dripping haul from the garden.

As if I were not her mere namesake,

but Panna Maria Herself,



everyone abandons their currant-flavored vodka,

smoked sheep cheese, and thick garlic pickles

to pass the offering around,



its long raggedy toothed green leaves,

thick succulent stems,

rough white knob of root,



to raise it up to their noses

and breathe in its aroma

as reverently and deeply



as Rastamen sharing a spleef,

this Big Thing so redolent of Earth, earth, ziemia,

and the ways it can nip you for good sometimes.



And they chant their divine happy thanks:

"Marysiu, chrzan!

Dzienkuje bardzo, chrzan!

Tak dobrze, chrzan!"



And just what

is this incantated chrzan,

besides Polish ganja?

Handy Household Hint:

you don't smoke it, silly.



You grate it and eat it fresh,

or put it up in jars of white vinegar,

to preserve the taste

and prevent discoloration.



It's hardly against the law, but:

Angielski jezyk doesn't taste and see the goodness

of de 'oly 'erb of Poland.



English names it, blech,

do we have to eat it, horseradish,

do we have to eat this frickin ugly thing

a horse wouldn't eat to save his life or his mama's



While meanwhile someone's aunty

flicks out her Jan Pawel II pocketknife

and slices off a side shoot

to plant in her own yard for next year,



as the pontiff stretches his big welcome

hands out wide as the aroma

of bunches and bunches of it,

he chuckles forth tak dobrze, chrzan!



BLESSED ARE THEY



Before he'd gone over

to the flip side of the ground,

her grandpa poised his

blue eyes dearly above her,

just like the Uncloudy Day

of that song from the country music station.



Mussing up her beagle's

flappy ears and jowly grin

he whispered:

"On Christmas Eve only

the pure of heart only

can hear the animals talk."



And smiled as if

they were all on riproaring

speaking terms with him.



But when Christmas Eve came back

all emptied of him,

she failed failed failed his memory,

she cried herself hotly and drily to sleep.



Because the mockingbird hadn't perched

his comic gray and white flurry

upon her shoulder and giggled in plain English

with her about the silly neighbors

who dashed back inside their house

when he tolled a mockery of their doorbell.



Because the box turtles hadn't ambled

up to the back screen door,

raised their thick, naily front feet

and tapped them against the warped frame

to see if she was in and tell her finally, for real!

if they have the exact same colors

inside as outside their black, glossy,

orange-fired shells.




Then she slid and tumbled

down from her hot, dry weeping,

from that arid, wispy-grassed mite

of a rental lot in Central Oklahoma,

through thinning dirt into

red rock and red rock,

and up through some layers

of strangely thick black soil.



Falling in a shortcut

through solidities

and crumblings of Earth,

she untombed herself

into the very Poland

that she'd never crossed the ocean

to see or touch before



and saw and touched her waggling dog

and never-vanished grandpa

to burrow and somersault

with them seamlessly in play

through the stolen family

fields of ripening rye

that no great-great uncle's cousin

had ever mentioned to her yet.



Fields golden brown and rustly

as her daily breakfast toast

on Choctaw-Cherokee Way.



And after she tumbled back up

through the ample black

strangeness of that soil,

into the red sandstone rose rocks

and hardscrabble scratches of dirt,

she arrived not back

into hot, arid weeping



but clear,

succulent wakefulness

of her hound's supple spine

as he lolled it sleepily out

in nubbly, soothing twinship to hers,

while his paws twitched

and drummed with romping

and he barked a muffled version

of the merry, pleading quaver

of greeting he reserved for Grandpa.




In the small, warm,

breathing space between them,

she cupped incredulous hands

around the shock

of the center of gravity

of the overlapping dreams

they'd broadcast one another

all that Holy Night.



In the small, warm,

breathing space between them

she heard out these Facts

of conversation more shining

than the gold foil star atop the fir

one thick-with-dark room over,

more brilliant than the green and red

ribbons she would tug undone

to release the presents beneath,



more shining, more brilliant,

especially now

that those gifts beneath the tree

could no longer bear

the loopy, slanted letters

of Grandpa's poinsettia-anointed,

reliable as toast name tags upon them.



BIO


A mere five generations away from Poznania in Western Poland, Mary Krane Derr writes poetry, sings, and grows organic vegetables on Chicago's South Side.
 


Krystyna Lenkowska


Snow -- Ryszard Kapuscinski died today

You are falling as many of us fall under gravity's weight
You are flying
From where we all come.

You are leaning against time and earth
Deer marks trace after you
A dog falls inside you with such an obviousness
In its eyes that it makes my flesh creep.

In Subcarpathian Slocina you are the same
As in Turkish Kars
A legend of Herodots.

Love, death and trash are under you
Lightly stamped.

You are geometry on glass
A glass on the road.
They crush our fragile bodies
In your majesty.

Pieces of rockets from Baykonur fall on your head for us
But you are lying on your back in the Altai Mountains
An untouchable equilibrist

Oh, my white idealist.


Translated by Janusz Zalewski and John Guzlowski



Krakow-Warsaw West

I feel the greatest longing at train stations
in angular waiting rooms
on dim platforms
and when the train pulls out and passes the backs of houses
the city's cesspool the other side of walls
the pitch-black yards the rickety fences
those unfulfilled garden plots.

I long for places and people left behind
for the way they could have been for me but are for others
I even long for those I have never met
who still belong irrevocably
to my past.


Credits

"Snow" first appeared in Yellow Edenwald Field.

"Krakow-Warsaw West" appeared in Boulevard 2007.



Bio

Krystyna Lenkowska's poems, translations, essays, literary notes and interviews, have been published in Poland and the US. She lives in Rzeszow, Poland. Her website appears at http://www.lenkowska.pl





David Radavich



HOLOCAUST



It must reassure

to imagine some death

counts more than

the demise of others.



Those who fell faceless

in their own feces or blood

will not be honored

by a ribbon or number

that can be worn.



My ancestors never

received such anointing.



They starved along railway lines

like weeds in a snowstorm,

thin and reedy

as boned songbirds.



Their ghosts

did not whisper in

documentaries.



Ill never know

who they are, their names

are unpronounceable.



The sky is indifferent

to clouds already passing.



I say, take a picture,

and burn it.




REFUGEE


He arrives at the Midwest

without a passport,

pulls up to the pump: Ellis Island

of the mind. Is this where

they check us in?

Puts back the nozzle,

plops down his VISA card, starts

signing the forms. Can't

remember the name they give him here.

Something flat, with corn

and soybeans in it.

They wonder why he wails

for the old country: Polkas, meat

lines, pickled pig's-feet,

clothes that smell like leeks.

No one wails here,

not even police wagons.

They clean life off with gasoline.



He pulls into the Midwest

looking at a boxcar rotting, half-open

as a hobo's eye, doesn't know

where these wheels will

take him, what's



next after the migration,

the sunflower, the prairie rat,

drying and wailing the noon-day sun.



Credit

"Refugee" was published originally in Poet & Critic and subsequently in his collection, By the Way. "Holocaust" just recently appeared in Common Ground Review.


BIO


David Radavich's latest poetry collections are America Bound: An Epic for Our Time (2007) and Canonicals: Love's Hours (2009). His plays have been performed across the U.S. and in Europe.

 

 


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